2016 NHL Mock Draft: Post-Combine Edition
The NHL combine is complete, and now teams, prospects, agents and fans can count down to the 2016 NHL entry draft. On June 24 and 25 in Buffalo, New York, the 30 teams will select their future players—and this year the quality at the top is outstanding.
Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi are the likely names to be called out first, although Matt Tkachuk has been working hard in an effort to get into the conversation. After that, things get far less certain, but the quality matches the intrigue.
With the knowledge that we are likely to see many trades before and during the 2016 draft, here is a mock draft for the entire first round.
1. Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews, C, Zurich (NLA)
Auston Matthews managed the near-impossible this season. It is rare for a draft-eligible prospect to lead the draft rankings from wire to wire, but Matthews did it—or almost did it, depending on what scouting service you believe.
Matthews is a complete center, with size, speed and skill. He is the kind of prospect a team can build around, and this year the team drafting No. 1 overall has a long history of top centers having a major impact. The Toronto Maple Leafs have employed many of the NHL's finest centers over many decades. Syl Apps, Ted Kennedy, Dave Keon, Darryl Sittler, Mats Sundin and others established themselves as impact players in the Toronto uniform.
In recent years, the center position has fallen on hard times for the Maple Leafs, so the timing of the team's draft-lottery victory is perfect. Auston Matthews is an easy selection at No. 1 for this mock draft, both because of his talent level and the fit with Toronto's need.
Thomas Roost, who scouts Switzerland for NHL Central Scouting, had this to say about Matthews in Mike G. Morreale's NHL.com article in September 2015:
He has all the tools to become a world-class, two-way center in the mold of (Chicago Blackhawks captain) Jonathan Toews or (Los Angeles Kings center) Anze Kopitar. Matthews isn't that flashy at first sight and you need to dig a bit deeper into his plays to discover the true value of him. He has the ability to make his linemates better. He moves the puck very well, has very good hand-eye coordination, quick hands for plays in tight around the net, and excellent puck control. He thinks the game ahead of a normal good player.
2. Winnipeg Jets: Patrik Laine, W, Tappara (Sm-Liiga)
Patrik Laine did more for his cause than any prospect in the 2016 draft from Christmas through the end of the hockey season. Laine was brilliant at the World Junior Championships, scoring 13 points in seven games. Even more impressive, at the World Hockey Championships, Laine scored seven goals and 12 points in 10 games—effectively dominating a tournament filled with some of the world's best players.
Laine is an impact prospect, and he is very likely headed to the Winnipeg Jets. The franchise—originally the Atlanta Thrashers—will count Laine as the finest draft pick in a run of high-quality selections. In what can only be described as an ironic turn, the old Jets—now the Arizona Coyotes—enjoyed Teemu Selanne's first seasons in the NHL. It is safe to assume this version of the Winnipeg Jets will draft and hold on to its impact Finnish player.
The Jets are probably looking at a plug-and-play selection—Laine is clearly able to compete against men. If he shows well in training camp this fall, he could be a strong contender for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie.
Matias Strozyk wrote an interesting scouting report for Elite Prospects earlier this year:
A natural scorer, Laine's greatest asset is his intimidating shot. He's not a speedy skater, but possesses power and a long stride, and protects the puck well with his large frame and longer stick. Overall, skating has been a minor issue through Laine's development but has improved with some help from his ability to read the game. Laine has the hunger to create chances on his own from the wing and actively looks for and creates opportunities to use his shot. His elite wrist shot is notable for its quick release and his powerful one-timer from the top of the circle is a constant threat on the man-advantage.
3. Columbus Blue Jackets: Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, Karpat (Sm-Liiga)
Jesse Puljujarvi is the hockey version of a bull in a china shop. The big Finn—he is 6'3'', 201 pounds and is 23 months from turning 20—uses skill and speed to cause havoc all over the ice.
His dominant performance at the World Junior Championships—17 points in seven games—was his highlight performance this season. Puljujarvi's rambunctious approach and physical maturity could mean he is NHL-ready this fall.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are a team with a lot of needs—Scott Cullen of TSN lists center, two wingers and a defenseman in his "offseason game plan"—and Puljujarvi is a solid potential fit for one of those holes.
Elite Prospects describes a very valuable young player:
Puljujärvi is a big winger who combines size, skating and skill. A strong skater who can blast past the opposition in full speed. Able to use his size, reach and stickhandling skills to retain the puck in speed. A smart player at both ends of the ice, both on and off the puck. Great work ethic and positive attitude. More of a playmaker than a scorer and could improve his shooting skills. Doesn't shy away from physical play, but could use his size more to his benefit.
4. Edmonton Oilers: Matt Tkachuk, LW, London Knights (OHL)
The Edmonton Oilers have been drafting near the top since 2010 and most of those picks have been used on forwards. Logic would dictate the Oilers choose a defenseman this time—the team badly needs help there—and there is a chance Edmonton will trade down.
If there is no trade, the best-player available is likely a forward—and Matt Tkachuk of the London Knights has the edge. His regular season was terrific, and his playoffs and Memorial Cup performances raised his profile and may have him in the conversation for No. 3 overall.
Edmonton has more than enough depth at the position—left wingers Taylor Hall, Benoit Pouliot and Patrick Maroon are quality players—so the club can afford to bring him along at his own pace. In that way, Tkachuk may represent progress for an organization that has forced youth into the NHL far too soon.
Curtis Joe wrote an excellent scouting report for Elite Prospects:
A multi-dimensional energy winger that plays a pro-style, adaptive game. Well-versed as a guy who can consistently put up points, but also as an agitator who plays with a little bit of bite and nastiness. Skates with excellent balance and speed, outclassing many in his age range.
No lack of offensive instincts and knows how to score in many different ways. Confidence in his abilities and playing to the extent of his capabilities strengthens his work ethic and creativity. All-in-all, a unique and effective forward who defines his own limits and seeks to exceed them, along with all on-ice expectations.
5. Vancouver Canucks: Pierre-Luc Dubois, C, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
Pierre-Luc Dubois is an impressive forward who emerged during the 2015-16 season as a top prospect. His offensive ability—99 points in 62 games—is a big part of his game, but his resume also includes a solid two-way reputation. Dubois slid from the wing to center midway through the season and flourished, giving him extra value for his drafting team.
The Vancouver Canucks struggled with injuries and poor performances in 2015-16, finding themselves drafting in a lottery position. Although the team has been in the Stanley Cup Final as recently as 2011, the erosion of a veteran roster was apparent this season.
Drafting a quality prospect like Dubois gives the Canucks a substantial addition to the team's prospect pool and continues the process of restocking the center position.
In a recent NHL.com article, Mike G. Morreale quoted NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr on Dubois and his range of ability:
"If you need someone to check the other team's top line and be a shutdown forward, he's a guy who can do that. If you need someone to generate scoring opportunities, he has the skill, speed and hands to do that too. He's a very all-around player."
6. Calgary Flames: Logan Brown, C, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Logan Brown of the Windsor Spitfires is a giant center—he stands 6'6''—with across-the-board skills. He spiked during the year, reflected in his climb up Central Scouting's North American list. Brown was No. 14 in mid-term and No. 7 on the final list—and could be chosen just outside the top five overall.
One of the keys to his rise on the draft rankings is foot speed. Although he is not a burner, the fact Brown can skate well at his size makes him unique. His two-way acumen only adds to an exciting skill set, and there is little doubt he will be taken early.
The Calgary Flames have a growing list of outstanding young forwards, led by Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett. All three have substantial skills and varied talents, but none of them have the kind of size Brown would bring. Although the options at No. 6 overall are plentiful, this is a very strong fit for player and team.
Dennis MacInnis, director of scouting for International Scouting Services, delivered the goods on Logan Brown via Don Brennan's Ottawa Sun article:
Man, this kid’s got tremendous upside. He’s 6-5 now, a smooth skater. He was in tough against Kitchener (in the playoffs) because he was up against the No. 1 line. But Brown handled himself well. At that size down the middle, when you can skate and handle the puck like he can, he could go anywhere from seven on down.
7. Arizona Coyotes: Clayton Keller, C, U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
If Clayton Keller of the U.S. National Development Team is selected No. 7 overall, some fans will be surprised by it. However, based on how much NHL teams value goal scorers—combined with clear evidence Keller is among the best offensive players available—this is about the right spot for the brilliant young center.
Keller is small—5'10'', 170 pounds—but threatens every shift. He can stickhandle and pass in tight areas and is a dynamic power-play performer. Keller could be accused of being one-dimensional, but when the dimension is offense and the potential is so great, the risk is worth it.
The Arizona Coyotes will continue an impressive run of drafting impact forwards if the club chooses Keller. Recent picks Dylan Strome, Max Domi and Christian Fischer should give the team outstanding offense in the coming years. Keller could be a key component in the future.
Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst described Keller and his skill set:
Keller is a strong, shifty skater with a powerful shot, displaying brilliance and hockey sense strikingly similar to what Marner brings to the ice. And while Marner is a winger, Keller is equally adept at bringing you out of your seat while leaving amazed opponents on the very edge of theirs.
8. Buffalo Sabres: Jakob Chychrun, D, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Jakob Chychrun of the Sarnia Sting is one of three defensemen who could be the first chosen in the 2016 entry draft. Chychrun has a complete skill set, including size—he is 6'2'', 194 pounds—and has a good chance of being the top defensive pick because of his range of skills. His terrific speed works on offense and defense, he is an excellent passer and plays a rugged style.
The Buffalo Sabres have an excellent puck-moving defender in Rasmus Ristolainen, who led the team in points by defensemen in 2015-16. The club has a fine mix of forwards, partly due to drafting Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel in back-to-back drafts. Although Chychrun would be the first player chosen in this draft who counts a large percentage of his value on the defensive side of the puck, he is also a solid offensive prospect.
One item worth mentioning is possible trades that could occur around where Buffalo chooses. A team like the Edmonton Oilers may be wise to deal down to this spot from No. 4 overall—allowing the team to grab the best defenseman on its list and to add assets.
Curtis Joe provided Elite Prospects with an excellent scouting report on Chychrun:
An unyielding two-way defenceman, Jakob Chychrun is a rising star with a toolbox bursting at the seams. Consistently displays elite four-way skating ability and is not afraid to throw his weight around physically. Plays with poise and composure through high pressure situations and, with the puck on his stick, can direct the play up-ice. Exhibits a particularly potent shot that works its magic on the power play and on the forecheck.
9. Montreal Canadiens: Olli Juolevi, D, London Knights (OHL)
The run on forwards early in this mock draft could in fact come to fruition. If it does, the Montreal Canadiens could benefit in a big way—as an outstanding defenseman or two could be available when it comes time for the No. 9 overall selection.
Olli Juolevi of the London Knights is an outstanding passer, offering his forwards wonderful outlet opportunities. The impact of a defender who can pass the puck tape-to-tape on the fly—without causing his forward to break stride—is a game-breaking opportunity. Joulevi can also carry the puck and is a strong coverage defender. The only reason he could fall to this number is his lack of ruggedness.
The Canadiens drafted a defenseman a year ago in the first round—Noah Juulsen of the Everett Silvertips—so they could opt to not draft a forward this time. The opportunity to procure an impact two-way defenseman like Juolevi would be too much to resist. Drafting for need doesn't make sense with a player of this quality still on the board.
Future Considerations offers high praise for the Finnish defenseman:
This smart, composed two-way blue liner plays the game in a very mature, experience manner. He is calm and focused although sometimes he could play with a tad more urgency in his own zone.
He is strong in his one-on one defensive play using his stick and positioning to break-up plays. His passing ability is elite for his age and he is strong at moving the puck. He generates impressive speeds with a strong, balance stride and good agility to keep up to attacking forwards.
10. Colorado Avalanche: Michael McLeod, C, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Michael McLeod of the Mississauga Steelheads is a strong two-way center who plays the kind of rugged style NHL teams value. He is 6'2'' and 185 pounds, and you will see him referred to as a power center in some scouting reports—although his size falls short of the classic description of that player-type. He earns that reputation because of the abandon in his game—but that could also mean injury issues down the line.
The Colorado Avalanche appear to be at a crossroads in scouting and the draft—the team has very little to show for the 2014 edition—but McLeod appears to fit the Patrick Roy style. McLeod is unlikely to be NHL-ready for the next two seasons, but when he arrives, he should be able to play the aggressive and physical style Colorado management prefers at this time.
The one lingering concern with taking McLeod this high is due to offense. He could blossom next season and the Avalanche would have a steal. There is plenty of talent still on the table, but the guess here is that Colorado steps up at No. 10 overall.
Steve Kournianois of The Draft Analyst gave an in-depth report on McLeod:
McLeod is an exciting two-way player with leadership qualities who happens to be one of the best skaters available for the coming NHL draft. He has one-step acceleration which helps him keep defenders off balance once the puck ends up on his stick. From that point forward, it’s off to the races, as McLeod combines his speed with keen vision to not only identify others for an option or two, but create one for himself.
The best word to describe McLeod’s game is rapid — everything he does is with effort and a sense of urgency. What separates McLeod from the lot of draft-eligible speedsters is that he has the size, strength and puck-control skills to go along with it.
11. New Jersey Devils: Tyson Jost, LW, Penticton Vees (BCHL)
Tyson Jost of the Penticton Vees is an impact prospect with a wide range of skills. There is every chance he would be badly underrated if chosen at the No. 11 spot, but the fact he played Tier 2 junior hockey in Canada could have an effect on his final draft number.
One area that probably helped his reputation is international performance. Jost was the best player on the ice in many games at the U18 World Championships this spring—scoring 15 points in seven games and earning best forward honors in the tournament.
The New Jersey Devils are a unique team with very specific structure, and Jost is an intelligent two-way type who would fit the bill. He is also on his way to the University of North Dakota, meaning he would get a year or two of excellent coaching before entering pro hockey.
The team drafting Jost may have to be a little patient, and the Devils personify this. Future Considerations summed up his resume like this:
A speedy and skilled fleet of foot forward who just produces points. An agile and slippery skater who has a low centre of gravity and strong balance which he uses to protect the puck. He is a dangerous playmaker who sees the ice and reads developing lanes quickly. Has a very quick shot that fools goaltenders with its surprisingly hard velocity. Tries to play defensive responsible but still has some lessons to learn in that regard.
12. Ottawa Senators: Mikhail Sergachev, D, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Mikhail Sergachev of the Windsor Spitfires appears destined to be a bargain at the 2016 NHL draft. He is a terrific offensive player who also has defensive acumen. He enjoyed a strong season as a member of the Windsor Spitfires, is an excellent skater and—at 6'2'', 220 pounds—offers his drafting team an impressive package.
Sergachev's issue is that he is in the range with three or four defensemen of similar quality. Although slightly more promising offensively than Olli Juolevi and Jakob Chychrun, he may be a little less impressive defensively. There is every chance he will be the third defenseman taken on draft day while also being the best defender available. It is that close.
The Ottawa Senators have a long history of swooping in during the middle of the first round and grabbing one of the best talents available. Erik Karlsson in 2008 is an example—chosen No. 15 overall, he would go inside the top three overall in a re-draft. That is typical of the Senators, and Sergachev would be a very good fit.
Brock Otten of OHL Prospects offers a scouting report on Sergachev:
Sergachev is an absolutely electric offensive player. ... He's such an explosive skater and when you combine that with his puck control, creativity, and aggressiveness in jumping up in the play, you've got a defender who constantly pushes his way across the blue line to create scoring chances.
13. Carolina Hurricanes: Alex Nylander, RW, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Alex Nylander of the Mississauga Steelheads is an outstanding offensive prospect. Although there are some gaps defensively, he appears to be a lock for success in the hardest discipline in the game: scoring goals. Nylander posted a strong OHL season and was money at the World Juniors during Christmas and the U18s in the spring. Although undersized, he is deadly in the offensive zone with the puck on his stick.
The Carolina Hurricanes are offensively challenged—and have a distinct lack of top-end scorers in the system. The team spent its last two first-round draft picks on defensemen, so a productive forward is a good fit. Nylander's talents could go much higher, so if he is available at No. 13 the smart money has Carolina selecting him.
Brock Otten of OHL Prospects tells the Nylander story:
I don't think there is a major weakness in his game in the offensive end. He has the potential to be a 40/40 guy in the NHL. The hands are elite. One of the best puck handlers in the league. He creates so much time and space for himself and he really opens up the ice for his linemates. The shot is elite.
He's used on the point of the powerplay in Mississauga because of how heavy his shot is. ... The playmaking ability and vision are elite. ... I'll give him credit, his ability to play through traffic and his engagement level without the puck really improved over the course of the season. By the end of the year, he had become active along the wall and had begun to use his speed to win loose puck battles too. Where he really struggles is in the defensive end. That part of his game will require a lot of work before he reaches the next level.
14. Boston Bruins: Dante Fabbro, D, Penticton Vees (BCHL)
Dante Fabbro is an intelligent two-way defender who can impact the game at both ends of the ice. His skill set matches the modern defenseman, with plus speed and passing ability—as well as his ability to make quick and effective decisions in spite of a strong forecheck.
Fabbro played Tier II hockey in Canada this past season and is off to Boston University this fall. A team taking him will have to be patient, but the resume is impressive.
The Boston Bruins dealt Dougie Hamilton last summer and have a need for puck-moving blue in the system. By No. 14 overall Fabbro would represent the best player available, and Boston would likely eschew the scoring options among forwards and grab the crafty defender.
Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst has the goods on Fabbro:
Fabbro likes to play an up-tempo game, breaking out of his zone with either short bursts of speed or a hard, accurate head man. He can identify and exploit gaps, including ones with a closing window of opportunity. He has above-average balance and the type of coast-to-coast ability to thwart tight-checking schemes.
15. Minnesota Wild: Charlie McAvoy, D, Boston University Terriers (NCAA)
Charlie McAvoy is another in a line of quality two-way defenders available in this year's draft. Despite playing college hockey at 18—very young for a blueliner—he was able to score 25 points in 37 games with Boston University. A team drafting McAvoy will be getting a mobile player with a range of skills.
The Minnesota Wild have been drafting forwards in the early rounds in recent seasons, but they have also been building up an impressive young defensive group. Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin and Mike Reilly should have a bright future, and adding McAvoy at No. 15 overall would further improve the depth on defense for the future.
Kirk Luedeke from The Scouting Post gives a concise report on McAvoy:
Heady defender can do it all- he pushes the pace with his skating and runs the PP like a seasoned veteran. The Long Island native might not possess ideal size, but his brain and skill level will allow him to make a rapid transition with the Terriers as a freshman.
16. Detroit Red Wings: Luke Kunin, C, Wisconsin (NCAA)
Luke Kunin is a solid offensive center for the University of Wisconsin Badgers. He is a slick puck-handler and is creative in the scoring zone. He played in the NCAA this past season, scoring 32 points in 34 games.
The Detroit Red Wings are legendary in drafting and developing, with the latest gem being Dylan Larkin. The Red Wings drafted him out of the U.S. Development Program, and he graduated to the Big Ten and Michigan Wolverines in 2014-15. This past season, Larkin blossomed at the NHL level. Kunin played in the Big Ten as a draft eligible and had success. Detroit may return to the conference for another player at this year's draft. Curtis Joe of Elite Prospects has the story on Kunin:
A highly intelligent and offensively gifted forward. Has a keen eye for scoring opportunities and has shown flashes of elite-level finishing capability. Works hard and isn't afraid to battle for puck possession. Good hands and puck skills, and has a really accurate release on his shot. Needs to work on his explosiveness, staying in motion with the play, and strength behind his shot. All-in-all, a gifted offensive force with the potential to blossom into a highlight reel player.
Luke Kunin would be a fine choice at No. 16.
17. Nashville Predators: Jake Bean, D, Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Jake Bean of the Calgary Hitmen is an effective two-way defender. He delivers an impressive amount of offense—64 points in 68 WHL games—and he improved markedly year over year. He might rank a little higher in this draft, but Bean is not a rugged or physical player.
The Nashville Predators have the midas touch when it comes to drafting WHL defensemen. Over the years, the Preds took Dan Hamhuis, Cody Franson, Shea Weber and Seth Jones, and each went on to a productive NHL career.
Craig Button of TSN discussed Bean's ability in April: "Calgary Hitmen blueliner Jake Bean (No. 11) is an exceptional skater with an outstanding mind and he uses both to impact the game in a significant manner. He’s quick to recognize where there is opportunity and his body can carry out what his mind commands."
In drafting Bean, Nashville would add a talented offensive defender with some defensive acumen. He could not land in a better spot.
18. Philadelpha Flyers: Julien Gauthier, RW, Val-d'Or Foreurs (QMJHL)
Julien Gauthier is an intriguing combination of size and skill. The big winger—he is listed at 6'3" and 229 pounds—is also a fine skill player. A winger with that kind of size, decent speed and the hands to score 41 goals in major junior is going to get noticed.
Gauthier was good enough to catch on with the Canada team at the World Juniors, an impressive item for the resume—Canada doesn't take many draft-eligibles to the U20 tournament.
The Philadelphia Flyers have enjoyed great success with QMJHL forwards over the years. In the last 20 drafts, Simon Gagne, Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier have all flourished after the Flyers chose them.
Curtis Joe of Elite Prospects has the player resume for Gauthier, including an interesting comparable:
An explosive power forward who boasts an elite-level skill package. Takes nothing for granted and plays with hard-nosed work ethic. Tremendous vision and outstanding hockey sense; thrives under pressure and doesn't stray from the high-percentage play.
19. New York Islanders: Kieffer Bellows, C, U.S. National Team (USHL)
Kieffer Bellows is a quality scoring prospect for the U.S. National Development Team. Including all games with the team, Bellows scored 50 goals during the 2015-16 season. He is a creative player with a plus shot and brings an impressive resume to the draft.
His father, Brian Bellows, had an excellent career as an NHL scorer, although he was not the same kind of player as Kieffer.
The New York Islanders have an uneven draft record over recent seasons. The last home run pick was John Tavares at No. 1 overall in 2009. Since then, the club has not delivered much despite drafting high in several seasons. Draft question marks include Ryan Strome, Griffin Reinhart and Michael Dal Colle.
Curtis Joe has a scouting report at Elite Prospects:
Kieffer Bellows is a skilled power forward that can dominate games. Possesses high end puckhandling ability as well as a crisp, accurate release on his shot. Proficient forechecker and loves to win puck battles, which stands out as a consistent part of his game. Strong skater that can bull through the opposition or go around them. Drives the net hard and is a decisive finisher.
All-in-all, a competitor that punishes the opposition physically, as well as on the scoreboard.
Bellows has an impressive resume and all the earmarks of being a significant scorer, and he would be a solid pick at No. 19 overall.
20. Arizona Coyotes: Max Jones, LW, London Knights (OHL)
Max Jones is a big, fast disturber with skill and is a very effective player for the London Knights. He turned heads at the recent Memorial Cup tournament, scoring a pair of goals and four points in four games. Although his 28 regular-season goals are not an impressive total for a first-round selection, Jones brings a lot to the game. His size—6'3'', 201 pounds—and speed make him an attractive draft package.
The Arizona Coyotes have two first-round selections in 2016. This mock draft chose brilliant offensive center Clayton Keller at No. 7 overall, and Jones would be an excellent bookend selection. Arizona received the pick from the New York Rangers—along with Anthony DuClair and other considerations—in the Keith Yandle trade.
Brock Otten of OHL Prospects rates him thus:
He's a throwback power forward cut from the same cloth as a guy like Wendel Clark. He brings speed. He can create off the rush with deceptively good hands (ask Jakob Chychrun). His shot is heavy and has the potential to become a major asset. Oh and I guess his physicality is a major asset (when used correctly).
I suppose the major question mark for me is how good his hockey sense is. That's the key to his development and potential. The physical skills are there, but I do wonder about his ability to be scoring line player at the NHL level. The other concern I have is over how he uses his physicality. I would love to see him be more of a factor on the forecheck, creating turnovers with those thundering checks (think of the impact Tom Wilson had as an OHL player).
Jones at No. 20 overall looks like good value.
21. Carolina Hurricanes: German Rubtsov, C, Team Russia (MHL)
German Rubtsov is a slightly undersized two-way center who plays for Team Russia in the MHL—Russia's highest junior league. His profile during this season was diminished greatly by a doping scandal that hit Russia's junior team just before the U18 World Hockey Championship. Jared Clinton of the Hockey News reported on the story, with the entire team—including Rubtsov—being replaced at the last minute.
The 6'0" Rubstov may not be as famous as others in this mock draft, but his range of skills—including a substantial reputation as a good forward away from the puck—make him an attractive option at No. 21 overall. The Carolina Hurricanes have two picks in the first round, and Rubtsov is a nice counter to the great skill of Alexander Nylander at No. 13 overall.
Alessandro Seren Rosso described Rubstov's varied skills via Hockey Prospectus:
A very intelligent player with a high-level sense of hockey and understanding of the game. He is a 200-foot player who is good in all three zones, although not a specialist in his own zone. He can be a very useful player in special teams situations, but he has to work if he wants to become a PK player at the NHL level. He can cover pass lines and be an active forechecker and backchecker, even if his best weapons are his offensive qualities, especially his great vision and smooth hands. Has to improve on the faceoff dots.
Carolina received this pick as part of the Andrej Sekera trade with the Los Angeles Kings.
22. Winnipeg Jets: Lucas Johansen, D, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Lucas Johansen of the Kelowna Rockets is a mobile two-way defenseman with plenty of promise. His brother, Ryan Johansen, is a quality center in the NHL with the Nashville Predators.
Johansen's numbers—he posted 49 points in 69 games—represent an exceptional year-over-year increase in offense. Combined with his range of skills, this step forward in ability suggests he is a trending player with high value.
The Winnipeg Jets acquired this selection from the Chicago Blackhawks in the Andrew Ladd trade.
Kirk Luedeke of the Scouting Post gave a detailed view on Johansen as a prospect:
Lucas is a really good skater, four-way mobility, he can stop/start quickly, he can skate backwards very well, very agile and fluid mover with his crossovers and his lateral movement and crisp on his edges. He is going to be good in puck retrieval, effective in leading and joining the rush, advancing the puck. He has good vision and passing ability. He is not a very physical defenseman, has a tendency to be more of a stick-check, play the puck kind of defensemen. Has to get better in the way he processes the game. He has higher offensive upside and could be a player who comes off the board earlier.
Added to the No. 2 overall selection—used on Patrik Laine in this mock draft—the odds of the Jets winning the 2016 draft appear to be excellent.
23. Florida Panthers: Alex DeBrincat, RW, Erie Otters (OHL)
Alex DeBrincat of the Erie Otters is a fairly rare item; not many junior players score 50 goals in a season twice before they are drafted. A year ago, some said it was because DeBrincat played with Connor McDavid, but this year, he turned the trick without his former center.
The Florida Panthers have experienced a substantial overhaul in their scouting department this spring, so figuring out the team direction at the draft table could be a moving target. Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun Sentinel covered the story early in June.
Brock Otten from OHL Prospects elaborated on DeBrincat's skills:
Truly an offensive sparkplug. DeBrincat is so hard to contain in the offensive end. Blink and he's behind you, or has positioning over you. He's so elusive. It's not often that you see 5'7 guys do the majority of their work 10 feet from the crease and in, but that's Debrincat. As alluded to, his skating ability, in particular his ability to stop and start and get a quick burst of acceleration is fantastic and allows him to be so quick to open lanes or loose pucks.
The only reason a player of this quality falls to No. 23 overall is size (5'7"), but for the Florida Panthers, it will likely be impossible to pass on him should he fall.
24. Anaheim Ducks: Riley Tufte, LW, Fargo Force (USHL)
Riley Tufte of the Fargo Force is an enormous winger. He is 6'5" and 212 pounds and will not turn 20 until April 2018—and it is anyone's guess as to how big he will be at that time. Along with being a big forward, he also brings skill to his game—and that has scouts and NHL managers intrigued.
Based on scouting reports, it is not quite certain what Tufte will become as a player. Although he has great size, he is not a tremendously physical player. That said, he can win battles, has skill and skates well.
In an article for NHL.com, Joe Yerdon quoted NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory on Tufte:
I don't see him being a guy that's going to be a huge pounder and the prototypical power forward, but I see him understanding how to use his size more and make that a part of his game because he's going to have to to be a successful player in the NHL. There's going to be that sweet spot somewhere in between that skilled and power forward for him in my mind. Maybe it's a Rick Nash-type of player where he has unreal hands for a big guy but can eventually understand he's using his size because it can give him such an advantage.
A team such as the Anaheim Ducks, who value unique talent, would rush to the podium if Tufte is available at No. 24 overall.
25. Dallas Stars: Rasmus Asplund, C, Farjestad BK (SHL)
Rasmus Asplund is one of the players in this draft who played pro hockey in his draft year. Asplund was an effective player in the SHL, Sweden's pro league, and that alone is an impressive part of a draft resume.
He drew a lot of notice at the World Junior Championship, scoring two goals, five points and delivering a quality two-way game.
Despite a lack of size—he is 5'10" and 176 pounds—Asplund is a bona fide NHL prospect. The Dallas Stars are a good drafting team and have shown a willingness to pursue players who can affect the game in more than one way.
Steve Kournianos of the Draft Analyst gave a concise scouting report on this player:
Asplund is quick and shifty, using his speed and turning ability to gain time and space. He has a good touch around the net, positioning his stick in the right place and takes a beating to complete a play. His SHL numbers might not show it, but he’s a very good scorer with a quick, accurate shot.
Asplund's advanced level of play may mean he is closer to being ready for the NHL than some of the prospects who will go before him in the 2016 draft.
26. Washington Capitals: C Pascal Laberge, C, Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)
Pascal Laberge of the Victoriaville Tigres is a two-way forward with significant offensive flair. Consistency has been an issue, but there is plenty to like about him. He is an aggressive player, a fine forechecker and could make the NHL in a number of ways.
For a team drafting after all of the big offensive options are taken, a player such as Laberge makes a great deal of sense. If he does not bring enough offense with him to the NHL, there is a chance he could serve as a two-way checker on a secondary line. The Washington Capitals may process the situation exactly that way.
Curtis Joe provided Elite Prospects with a quick scouting report on Laberge:
Pascal Laberge is a tough and spirited two-way forward with a high level of hockey sense. Hunts for turnovers and causes havoc whenever he is on the ice. Uses his size well to shield the puck, exert physical force, and win board battles. Has a good set of goal-scorer's hands, but tends to use them more to pass than anything.
All-in-all, an efficient, yet exciting, two-way forward with potential to develop into a playmaking goal scorer.
Laberge is an excellent option at No. 26 overall.
27. Tampa Bay Lightning: Nathan Bastian, C-RW, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Nathan Bastian of the Mississauga Steelheads brings a lot of attractive tools to his game. He has size (6'3" and 207 pounds) and enough skill to score 59 points in 64 OHL games.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are one of the best teams at procuring in the NHL in terms of the success of their pickups, and the club boasts a roster flush with homegrown talent. Part of the reason for that success is adding players who deliver top-end results in one or more area. Tyler Johnson—an undrafted free agent—is an excellent example.
Brock Otten of OHL Prospects recently wrote about Bastian:
He's 6'4, 210lbs and can play any forward position, providing a lot of versatility to a lineup. He's also a great two-way player and a physical asset who is especially effective at using his body to gain possession in the offensive end. This is impressive to me because, believe it or not, he was drafted into the OHL at 5'11, 155lbs.
Bastian would be a worthy pick at No. 27.
28. St. Louis Blues: Taylor Raddysh, RW, Erie Otters (OHL)
Taylor Raddysh of the Erie Otters is a compelling prospect at the 2016 Entry Draft. His 73 points in 67 games, combined with his NHL size—he is 6'1" and 203 pounds—mean he can be projected onto a skill line if the offense continues.
The St. Louis Blues did not have a first-round selection a year ago so will want to use it on a safe selection.
Brock Otten of OHL Prospects gives a solid description of Raddysh:
He has great size and uses that to drive the net, win battles in the corners, and open up space for his linemates. Raddysh just has that knack for finding open space in the offensive zone, which points to him having terrific hockey sense. I particularly love his vision coming off the wall. Creates a lot of scoring chances by making great passes after gaining/maintaining possession along the boards (similar to a guy like Matthew Tkachuk). His overall puck skill and skill set is not flashy, but he does whatever is needed on a scoring line and that's why he's a valuable player and could make a valuable pro. If he can really improve his skating (particularly power), he could be more of a driving force on a line.
Raddysh has good size and skill, while also having had offensive success in the OHL—the best junior league in the world.
29. Boston Bruins: Tyler Benson, LW, Vancouver Giants (WHL)
Tyler Benson of the Vancouver Giants might be the biggest wild card in this year's draft. Projected as a high pick going into the season, injuries and playing on a poor team almost completely derailed his year. Andrew Levangie of McKeens wrote about the left wing's difficulties in January.
Benson played in just 30 games during his draft season. So entering the draft, there are some questions surrounding him.
The Boston Bruins are ideally situated to take a chance on Benson. The club has an earlier pick—this mock draft chose defender Dante Fabbro at No. 14 for the Bruins—so this selection doesn't have to cash in for the team to have a solid draft.
The Bruins acquired the selection the day the club flipped goalie Martin Jones to the San Jose Sharks. Boston acquired Jones just four days earlier in the blockbuster Milan Lucic deal.
Levangie did an excellent job of summing up what makes Benson so intriguing:
Although not a game-breaker when it comes to speed, he has above-average acceleration and ability to create separation. This comes from a powerful lower body that produces a strong and stable stride. His power aids in fending off checkers.
If Benson emerges at a level that compares to his previous projection, Boston could win the draft in the first round.
30. Toronto Maple Leafs: Cam Dineen, D, North Bay Battalion (OHL)
Cam Dineen of the North Bay Battalion is the final selection of the first round—that means there are 12 American-born players in this mock draft. Among the things that should headline in Buffalo, the dominance of American prospects in 2016 should be front and center.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have a bookend selection to No. 1 overall—another American, Auston Matthews—acquired via the Phil Kessel trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins last summer.
Brock Otten from OHL Prospects details an impressive story:
Dineen's best asset is far and away his ability to see the ice offensively. His hockey sense is elite and his brain for the game is going to carry him places. I saw North Bay a lot this year and I honestly can't remember him making a bad pass out of his own end. He also distributes exceptionally well on the powerplay and does a great job of getting a low hard point shot through to the net.
The physical skills are only average (size, strength), and I'm sure there are some scouts who wish he was a little more explosive in his first few steps (he moves well and has very good overall mobility, but I do think it is a legit criticism). But you just can't ignore how well he processes the game.
Dineen is a creative defender, and a lot of his overall value lands on the offensive side of the puck. His 59 points in 68 games represents outstanding production for a draft-eligible defenseman.